Indian extremists threaten Hindus celebrating Christmas

Indian extremists threaten Hindus celebrating Christmas

Assam police investigate hard-line leader’s vow to ‘beat up’ people visiting Christian churches during festive period

Saji Thomas, Bhopal Updated: December 09, 2020 06:33 AM GMT
Indian extremists threaten Hindus celebrating Christmas
Members of Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), perform religious rituals to mark the 28th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodhya as Shourya Divas, in Amritsar on December 6, 2020. (Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP)

The leader of a Hindu group in India has threatened to beat up fellow Hindus if they visit churches for Christmas celebrations, drawing strong criticism from Christian leaders.

Mithun Nath, who leads the radical Bajrang Dal group in Cachar district of northeastern Assam state, said that no Hindus would be allowed to visit churches during Christmas. He was addressing a public gathering on Dec. 3.

“Hindus will be beaten up. The Christians will lock our temples’ gates, and we will go to have fun in their churches. I condemn such Hindus. They need to be taught a lesson,” he said.

Nath was referring to a group of students locking the gates of the Vivekananda Centre in Shillong, capital of Christian-majority Meghalaya, in November. He blamed Christians for the incident.

“No Hindus will be allowed to visit churches. If anyone does, Bajrang Dal will give its reply,” Nath reportedly said.

Hundreds of Hindus in Assam and other northeastern states visit churches for the Christmas Midnight Mass and nativity scenes that parishes put up as part of the celebrations.

The threat was condemned by local Christians.

It will only help divide society, said retired Salesian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati.

“Our culture is tolerance towards other religions and to mingle with each other at religious festivities irrespective of what religion one follows,” Archbishop Menamparampil told UCA News on Dec. 7.

“Every Christmas, Hindus and people from other religions visit churches,” the prelate said, adding that the open threat surprised him.

“Such threats will destroy our time-tested liberalism, fraternity, and secularism,” he said.Allen Brooks, the spokesman of the Assam Christian Forum, said the government and society need to respond to what he called was a “Hindu fatwa against Hindus.”

“Our only concern is if they will create a disturbance in church during our liturgy and other celebrations,” Brooks told UCA News on Dec.7.

He said India’s Constitution guarantees citizens the freedom to practice a religion of choice. Individuals can visit and join any religious program, subject to the regulations of the religions.

“Now, a Hindu has threatened other Hindus. It is for the Hindu community to decide if they have authorized him [Nath] to decide what they should do on Christmas Day,” he said.

Meanwhile, media reports said that the police have started investigating the alleged inflammatory speech.

Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli told reporters that district officials had taken note of the speech, and a case has been filed.

Right-wing Hindu leaders continue to attack Christians, accusing them of converting the poor to Christianity. They present Christian charitable works as a façade for religious conversion.

Many states have introduced anti-conversion laws with strict punishments, but no one has been convicted of forcefully converting people to Christianity.

Since the 1971 census, the Christian population in India has been dwindling. In 1971 they constituted 2.6 percent of the population but had declined to 2.3 percent of 1.3 billion people in 2011.

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